Of all the many strange and terrifying sights at Talladega this past weekend, perhaps none was more chilling than the sight of Robby Gordon and Michael Waltrip freight-training through the pack en route to the lead. And lead Waltrip did, for three laps — more than Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, by the way.
Waltrip is in the all-but-retired stage, but still dusts off the ol' firesuit for big races, particularly restrictor-plate ones. This year, Waltrip has run four races — the Daytona 500, the Bristol spring race, and both Talladegas — and failed to qualify for Michigan and Sonoma.
"If the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced every weekend at Talladega and Daytona I’d still be driving full-time," he said before the race. "That’s how much I like those tracks and restrictor-plate racing." It's a nice idea, but if the series raced at Talladega and Daytona every weekend, it's a fair bet that we wouldn't have 43 cars to finish the summer, much less the season.
Waltrip is a clownish presence off the track but also a sponsor's dream; it's not hard to see why people want to throw money his way. The guy is the real-life embodiment of Ricky Bobby's sponsored blessing. And while his days in the front of the field are pretty much done, as long as he's not hurting himself or others — and, yes, that's a big "as long as" — he ought to keep doing victory laps.